The provision of water and sewerage services is the responsibility of the 34 City and County Councils which are designated as water services authorities under the Water Services Act 2007. The Act allows for the direct provision of water and wastewater treatment services by a water services authority in an area where population or economic activities are sufficiently concentrated. A water services authority therefore has to take account of the economic cost in determining where it will directly undertake the provision of water and wastewater treatment services.
In accordance with the 2007 Act, my role as the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in relation to water services is to facilitate the provision of safe and efficient water services and associated water services infrastructure, with responsibility for supervision of the performance by water services authorities of their functions in the water services sector. My Department's role is in developing and implementing Government policy in this area, making sure that the necessary funding is made available to finance the Water Services Investment and the Rural Water Programmes and monitoring physical and financial progress on schemes. In the period 2000 to 2011 (inclusive), over €5.5 billion has been invested in the water services sector under these programmes. The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives.
Ireland has a very diverse water supply system, with over 950 public water supplies producing over 1,600 million litres of water daily through a network of 25,000 km of pipes. EPA data indicate that some 85% of the population is connected to public water supplies and a further 8% of the population is serviced by group water schemes covered by the drinking water regulations. The remainder of the population receives water supplies from private wells.
Water services are generally provided in stand alone regional or local schemes of varying size and are not connected through one interconnected network. Individual water services schemes are designed for each particular location taking into account the unique features which may apply. The design, construction and cost of these schemes is dependent on a number of factors including density of properties, ground conditions and topography.